Self-righteousness is a sense of moral superiority that appoints us a prosecutor over other people’s sinfulness. At times, we can relate to hurtful individuals as though we’re incapable of the sins they commit, which is why governing our hearts is the first call to action before we engage hurtful people.
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Self-righteousness is the motive of a person’s heart, while the thoughts and words that flow from that kind of heart condition are an “I am better than you are” attitude. You will know if you struggle with self-righteousness if you exhibit any of these behaviors.
- You are quicker to acknowledge the sins of another person while ignoring or only giving a courtesy nod to your own.
- The starting point in your discussion about what is wrong between you and another person is with the other person.
- You are more concerned with what others have done wrong than what you have done wrong.
This type of thinking and doing negates the power of the gospel in your life, which loudly proclaims from heaven that nobody is better than anyone else (Romans 3:23). The self-righteous person may say the “ground is level at the cross,” but functionally this kind of person does not live it out before those who have committed offenses against them (Matthew 18:21).
If you believe that no one is righteous (Romans 3:10-12), your attitude toward others who commit sins against you should comprise these things.
- You are humble, not angry.
- You are self-aware, not self-assured.
- You are forgiving, not hurtful.
- You are peace-seeking, not a desire to prove your rightness.
The Many Manifestations of Anger
The gospel reminds you of your sin against Christ, which is the lens through which you see the sins of others. This perspective puts a governor on your heart while unleashing the sweet Holy Spirit to guard your tongue (Luke 6:45).
The gospel teaches us to show mercy to others (Matthew 18:33)–a kindness that reflects what the Lord revealed to us through the death of His dear Son. Thus, we are enabled to approach others without any sense of superiority (Luke 18:11). The gospel opens the door to this kind of peace-making.
Let me personalize what I’m saying to myself. If I am not the worst sinner that I know, I am capable of doing any sin to those who are “below me” (1 Timothy 1:15). The gospel for this kind of person is in name only because there is no restorative power.
As soon as I elevate myself above another person, the gospel loses its transformative force. Here are a few questions that will help you examine yourself as you engage others in an ever-increasing hostile world.
- Am I so confident that I see the supposed “facts” about others with clarity?
- Am I quick to assign motives when I feel that someone has wronged me?
- Do I find it easy to build a case against someone that makes me seem right and the other person seems wrong?
- Do I ask questions with built-in assumptions that I believe will be proven right?
- Do I ask fair questions–the kind that genuinely seeks new information regardless of its implications for my preferred outcome?
- Am I overly concerned about who is to blame for something?